Life in the lab

I’m in my fifth year, the last year of my Master degree, and I came to Strathclyde primarily to work on my diploma thesis. So, what does life in a Strathclyde physics laboratory look like?

IMG00201-20120925-1304The group where I’m doing my project is the Photophysics group of Professor David Birch. The main focus of the group is interdisciplinary molecular research using fluorescence methods. Everything revolves around fluorophores, biomolecules, colloids and nanoparticles.



Some of the current projects are concerned with aggregation of biomolecules (peptides linked with Alzheimer’s disease), melanin, gold and silica nanoparticles.

There are various devices and techniques which we can use for measuring/imaging, ranging from spectrofluorometers to atomic force microscopy.

DSC_0069 (2)Some of the devices (especially for time-resolved fluorescence) can get quite busy, but we have booking sheets for planning things out.

IMG00197-20120925-1301The seat of the group is on the 6th floor of John Anderson building with a number of offices and laboratories. I have a nice big desk and computer in the PhD office and I must say, my favourite thing about it is the beautiful view. I can see a pretty large part of Glasgow and when visibility is good, I can even see some mountains in the distance, snowcapped in winter. Right under my window there is a green patch where people are picnicking, barbecuing and throwing frisbees when the weather suggests it.

Every Monday afternoon the Photophysics group gathers for a meeting. First of all there is a presentation given by a member of the group. There is a different speaker every week, so everyone has an opportunity to present his or her work to the rest of the group, including project students. The presenter gets to choose the topic, but it should be related to the project he or she has been working on. During the presentation the other group members are listening, taking notes and afterwards there is a slot for questions. This can make you nervous and uncomfortable, but in fact it isn’t that bad! On the contrary, you get new insights from the listeners and ideas for your project. When the presentation and questions are done, there is the more relaxed second part of the meeting with cookies and coffee in the 8th floor common room. Anything can be discussed- visiting researchers, conferences to attend, broken or fixed instruments, the weather etc.

DSC_0656 (2)Every now and then the group also has an informal meeting outside the university to grab a drink and talk about physics-unrelated things. The photo is from the Photophysics Christmas dinner.

Talking about dinner, something worth mentioning is the fundamental question, where to go for food. Normally a couple of us meet for lunch at Todd’s diner, where there is usually a quite good selection of hot meals ranging from typical Scottish/UK dishes to Indian curries and pizzas. If we don’t go to Todd’s, the fridge/microwave/toaster in the PhD room may provide something edible. The kettle supplies endless numbers of coffees and it is probably one of the most important devices of the group, along with all the fluorescence spectrometers.